What does ‘living gently’ mean? Since running the Gentle Living coaching course, I’ve come across lots of people who’d love to know more. But something’s stopping them. Something inside them is telling them they can’t live more gently. They’re curious about the concept, but sometimes worried about what it’ll mean for them and for their loved ones if they go ‘too far’.
So, what if these objections were simply self-limiting beliefs that are stopping them from making changes that could be really good for them? What if this is you – thinking that gentle living is unachievable for you because of these reasons? What if these thoughts were just ‘myths’ that are holding you back from living a more gentle life?
Let’s go through them together.
1. Gentle living is for hippies
This is quite a typical reaction I hear of. What’s ‘gentle living’ anyway? Isn’t it all too ‘airy-fairy’? Are you now going to tell us we need to start eating vegan, meditating every day and go on retreat all the time?
Actually – if that’s what being a hippy is then, well, great – I’m in!
But seriously, despite moving with the times the hippy term can unfortunately still be seen as a derogatory one perhaps to denote alternative or not serious even.
The reality is gentle living is for everyone – mainstream, alternative, however you want to class yourself. It can work for corporate bankers through to the baker in the south of France. It can work for people who want physical gentleness or emotional gentleness. It can work for people who are busy with many projects through to those who want to achieve it more despite meditating 12 hours a day.
The point is that it’s for everyone because it is defined by each person. It’s their version of gentle – however the term resonates for them. The actual outcomes of what people do daily, monthly, in their whole gentle lives – it wildly different because we’re all so different, but the process for them to get there is anything but alternative.
While the concept of gentle living may sound hippy to some, I can say that my programme to help people get there has evidence, structure and research behind it. It’s centered around this idea of working with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in order to help your actions, behaviours, and habits. That is what leads you to living more gently. And there’s nothing airy-fairy about this. In fact, these are fundamental elements of psychology and behavioural change.
It uses mainstream techniques (listening skills, open questions, tools and activities, workbooks, online chats, group structures etc) to help people with their change and it’s been shown to work again and again with more people who join.
If that is indeed what being a hippy looks like, then so be it.
If the belief that something is hippy puts someone off then that’s also OK – maybe the concept or the course isn’t for them, or maybe they’re not interested at this time. We usually find the things we’re interested in at just the moment we may want them so there’s no hurry to try to turn people.
But if you’re noticing a belief that gentle living seems out there, yet are intrigued, then maybe that’s worth exploring a little more, to find out it’s exactly what you do indeed want?
2. If I don’t push myself, nothing will happen
Have you ever had thoughts similar to these?
- If I don’t keep pushing myself I won’t achieve
- If I don’t keep busy and keep doing I won’t be a success
- I won’t get the things I want if I let the balls drop
I know I have. And if you have too, you’ve probably concluded that you can’t live more gently because you can’t possibly pull back from the things you’re doing. This is important to note because lots of us are indeed doing all the things – running a business, holding up a family, managing work commitments, trying to stay social – and sometimes it’s hard to know what to prioritise or even stop.
After all, we may want to live more gently, but we still want to achieve and succeed (however we might define those words for us).
What if there could be another way?
If you look back at the things you’ve done to get to where you are, or the things you’re doing to get to where you want to be, does it really all come down to pushing and striving?
Couldn’t your success and achievements be attributed to many other things? To something other than being over-busy and stressing yourself out? Yes, maybe your grit and your stress took you some way there, but isn’t it also possible, or even more possible, that many other factors were at play and that maybe, just maybe, even without all or as much stress and strive, you could have achieved the same things. Maybe even more, with less?
Radical, I know.
But it could be true.
And maybe something’s stopping you from testing it out, because it feels too radical to say I can still achieve what I want without the tears, stress, pressure, overwhelm, because those are our default positions perhaps?
The thing is, thinking about leading life more gently might allow us to admit that whatever the outcome, we simply don’t want to live like that any more anyway. We don’t want to feel unwell – physically, emotionally, to push for what we want – nothing is worth that in the end.
But even so, if we do the pull back, perhaps we’re thinking more clearly, with fresh eyes and can see what direction is best for us, is good for our souls and our bank balance maybe, and we finally start to work and live more in tune with how we want things to go. We’re no longer burning out to get there.
Living gently isn’t about not having goals. You won’t suddenly become a boring person who stops doing everything you do. It’s quite the opposite. When you start to think about your gentle life vision, you get really clear on your goals and on what you really want. And that’s both for your gentle life and for all the other parts of your life.
The beauty of it all is that you become so kind to yourself in trying to achieve those things that you stop wasting time trying to make decisions, for example, and you achieve your goals without having to push quite so hard. Doesn’t that sound pretty amazing?
3. I can’t live more gently, or my life will change too much
Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. I don’t know. It depends on what your definition of gentle living is and on how much you want it. Maybe defining your gentle life vision (which is something we do in the first week of the course) will give you an idea of how much you would like your current life to be different. And that can be quite scary. It opens your eyes to the fact that maybe you have things in your life that aren’t entirely within your control. Things you have no ability to do anything about. We all do. And we also become aware of things we do have control of, but that we’re not ready to take responsibility for right now, like considering a big family move, for example.
All of this is okay. The idea of gentle living is to have us thinking about this in a way that’s quite new, so that life doesn’t have to completely change if you don’t want it to.
But as you start to understand your vision, you’ll also start to see what could be different. And what you could do in order to get there.
Gentle living is about empowering you to make positive change that works for you; rather than having to run away because everything’s awful, it’s adjusting the way we cope and manage so we’re resilient, happy and strong whatever the weather. And celebrating when it is sunny, of course. You shouldn’t have feel like you need to change your whole life; you get to pick what part of gentle living is good for you right now and anytime in the future.
4. If I lead a more gentle life, I can’t work in the same way
Maybe you have a mortgage to pay. You have no intention of moving, so the instalments aren’t going anywhere. This is fine. You don’t have to change the responsibilities that you have and that you still want to keep. No one says you have to get rid of the house, the car, or the job. Gentle living isn’t about any of this. It’s about looking at the things you have control over and understanding what wiggle room you have that you can play with to help you lead a more gentle life. With a bit of work and focus, you start to understand what your gentle life is or could be, and you’ll start to find little solutions that could help you get there. Maybe you realise that all you have to do is to communicate to your boss that you need to work in a different way that isn’t as stressful for you?
Maybe nothing around you will change at all. But you’ll manage to find a sense of internal peace, despite all the busyness around you. Maybe you’ll start to feel like you can finally take a breath, no matter how stressful life is.
When I had cancer, it was an incredibly difficult experience all round. I couldn’t ‘be positive’ (and continue to feel it’s unfair to ask that of any patient when things are so hard). However, I did come to the realisation that I wasn’t escaping this any time soon, and to improve my own management of the experience, I could find elements of control that would help me. Not to paper over the difficulties, but to simply find control and empowerment where it had not been (or felt) present before. This is acceptance in another form and my inspiration behind the gentle life course; that even with difficulties, we may find space for change.
If you find yourself thinking that you can’t possibly live more gently, I’m here to show you that you can. You just have to get to a point where you believe you can, so you can start to see where that might be possible, even within all the stresses and responsibilities you have.
5. If I live more gently, I will become preachy and evangelical
Will gentle living suddenly transform you into this new person who wants everyone else to know how gentle you now are? You may worry that your partner or family and friends may not want to hear about this. And we can’t really expect them to always like or agree with what we do, can we? That’s just a part of life.
Maybe you keep this kind of thing private anyway. It could be your own personal reflection and transformation. Sometimes when we go through quite a fundamental shift we want to be very private about it.
Other times, we may want to let people know about the journey of self-discovery that we’ve just been on.
There’s no right or wrong in either – they’re just your preference.
If you share, you can decide who with to have the conversation or response you’d love. Maybe that’s like-minded people who’ve shared the change or new audiences who are eager to learn. Or maybe it is indeed, your husband and co-worker. You’ll know what feels right.
So don’t assume that you shouldn’t have change because others might judge you for it. If change is what you need, check out why others’ opinions bother you on this and ask if you’re prepared to stay the same to keep only others happy? My guess, in answer to the latter, is that you probably don’t want to be and you’re finally feeling deserving of how this change can impact not just you, but all those around you too for the better.
Over to you now. What are YOUR objections? Why do you think you can’t live more gently? Let me know in the comments.